Northam honors recipients of 2020 Volunteerism and Community Service Awards

ralph northam

Ralph Northam

Gov. Ralph Northam today announced the winners of the 2020 Governor’s Volunteerism and Community Service Awards.

The annual program recognizes the outstanding contributions of individual volunteers and organizations to the well-being of the Commonwealth and its people.

“People in every corner of the Commonwealth are rising to the challenges brought on by the COVID-19 crisis and volunteering their time, skills, and resources in this time of great need,” Northam said. “With these awards, we recognize the spirit of volunteerism and celebrate the exemplary service of individuals, groups, and organizations that have made significant contributions to their communities and the lives of their fellow Virginians. This year’s honorees embody our shared values of compassion, empathy, and kindness, and we should all strive to follow their examples.”

“We are grateful for the critical support, collaboration, and dedication these volunteers have contributed to communities across the Commonwealth,” Department of Social Services Commissioner S. Duke Storen said. “It is through this spirit of ‘people helping people’ that families are empowered, communities thrive, and Virginia becomes a stronger place to live and work.”

“These ten award winners represent the depth and breadth of volunteerism and community service of more than two million Virginians who freely give their time and talents each year,” Chairman of the Advisory Board on Service and Volunteerism Julie Strandlie said. “The civic fabric of our communities is stronger because of their generosity. The Board looks forward to joining Governor Northam to celebrate the 2020 honorees at a future event. We offer our appreciation and gratitude to all Virginians who serve.”

The awards are organized by the Office on Volunteerism and Community Services, in partnership with the Governor’s Advisory Board on Service and Volunteerism and the Virginia Service Foundation. These organizations are charged by the Governor with recognizing Virginians who have significantly contributed to the life and welfare of the Commonwealth and its citizens.

2020 Governor’s Volunteerism and Community Service Awards

OUTSTANDING COMMUNITY ORGANIZATION | The Hope Center (Petersburg)

The Hope Center, which serves as the community outreach of Downtown Churches United, Inc. (DCU), contributes more than 14,000 hours of service to the Petersburg community annually. Providing hunger and financial relief services, The Hope Center operates the Daily Feeding Program, which includes a food pantry, help with paying utility bill payments, and regular blood pressure screenings. The food pantry operates approximately 20 hours a week and distributes groceries to an average of 175 households a week, and the Daily Feeding Program provides a hot lunch for more than 80 people a day.

OUTSTANDING FAITH-BASED ORGANIZATION | First Baptist Church Lambert’s Point (Norfolk)

For a decade, the congregation at First Baptist Church Lambert’s Point, led by Pastor Anthony Paige, has served the physical, emotional, and intellectual needs of students at the Madison Alternative School. Each year, volunteers from the congregation collect and distribute much-need supplies for the under-resourced students who come from many Norfolk Public Schools. Throughout the school year, Pastor Paige and the volunteers also help the students work through personal barriers that have interfered with their success. At the end of the school year, a graduation is held at the church—an emotional and moving day for the students and congregation alike.

OUTSTANDING CORPORATION | Northwest Federal Credit Union (Herndon)

Northwest Federal Credit Union has made a strong commitment to their community by implementing a powerful community service initiative called “Transforming Lives Through Acts of We.” By collaborating with many local organizations, credit union staff have countless opportunities to serve and receive 24 paid volunteer hours per year. In 2018, employees volunteered more than 7,800 hours and donated more than $120,000 to their community partners.

OUTSTANDING EDUCATION ORGANIZATION | HERO Club of Amherst County High School (Amherst)

The student-led Helping Everyone Reach Out (HERO) Club was started by freshman Alannah Wilson at Amherst County High School four years ago. The group works to eliminate stigma around disability by answering questions about disabilities, sharing information about how disabilities affect people, and facilitating self-determination and self-advocacy. Comprised of students with and without disabilities, the HERO Club has grown to 30 volunteers. In addition to hosting speakers on a variety of topics, the club presents educational and outreach programs focused on their motto: “I can, you can, we can, together.”

OUTSTANDING SMALL BUSINESS | SecureTech360 (Springfield)

SecureTech360 is a small company with less than 20 employees, but its employees are dedicated to serving their community. Staff have dedicated more than 300 hours, volunteering their time by mentoring students and annually participating in several walks to raise funds for various causes including cancer, Parkinson’s disease, AIDS, and heart disease. They have also donated more than $30,000 to local charities and provided over $15,000 in scholarships to several nonprofit organizations.

OUTSTANDING VOLUNTEER FAMILY | The Blanco Family (Fairfax)

For a decade the Blanco Family has dedicated their time and talents volunteering for the Workhouse Arts Center in Fairfax County. The entire family has dedicated countless hours to the center, including mom, Caroline, who serves on the board; dad, Andrew, who provides his operations expertise throughout the 55-acre campus; and their children, David and Meridith, who volunteer for the organization’s annual haunted trail, the center’s primary source of funding. Recently, the family jumped into action when the event was in jeopardy, making sure that it went on as planned and the center could continue its work in the community.

OUTSTANDING SENIOR VOLUNTEER Edward L. Weiner Esq. (Fairfax)

Attorney Ed Weiner has served the Commonwealth and his local community as a champion of access to justice for all for over 20 years. Ed combined his love for jazz and justice to raise much-needed revenue for music scholarships at George Mason University and for civil legal aid. Ed, who has served as president of the Virginia State Bar, Fairfax Bar Association, and Fairfax Law Foundation, developed a special concert event and formed a nonprofit, Jazz4Justice, which has been replicated within Virginia and has inspired similar events across the country. Ed’s events alone have raised more than $500,000 for music scholarships and an additional $500,000 to support legal aid, reaching tens of thousands of low-income Virginians experiencing life-altering civil legal issues including domestic violence protective orders, custody disputes, illegal evictions and unlawful foreclosures, or denials of benefits to which they are entitled. Every May 1, more than 700 community members join Ed and his law partners for the annual Law Day “Weiner Roast” celebration, which also raises funds for the Fairfax Law Foundation and civil legal aid.

OUTSTANDING ADULT VOLUNTEER | Jean Schiro-Zavela (McLean)

Since 2011, Jean Schiro-Zavela has dedicated 1,700 hours of volunteer time to Britepaths, a financial literacy program in Northern Virginia. Jean provides administrative support to the organization and is responsible for entering all of the data needed to implement, assess, and report on the program. In the first 11 months of 2019, Jean was instrumental in documenting and tracking the 900 individuals who attended free financial literacy education classes or who met with a financial planner. Additionally, she entered data for and tracked another 663 individuals who attended one-on-one sessions with a financial literacy mentor. Her competence, commitment, and passion have helped hundreds of Virginia families become financially self-sufficient.

OUTSTANDING YOUNG ADULT VOLUNTEER | Aniyah Hubert (Danville)

Aniyah Hubert, a senior at Averett University, began volunteering at a young age and continued throughout her high school and college career in full force. Serving with Sister4Sister, she acquired a sponsorship to support two local women’s shelters by purchasing, organizing, and stuffing more than 40 care packages. She also serves as a counselor for the crisis hotline and assists younger students on campus for freshman orientation week. For the next phase of service, Aniyah has decided to become an AmeriCorps member as a STEM/Literacy Developer for the Danville Church Based Tutorial Program.

OUTSTANDING YOUTH VOLUNTEER | Olivia Gilbert (Prince George)

At age 13, Olivia Gilbert is a force for fighting hunger in Prince George, collecting more than 6,500 pounds of food to date. Olivia, who started volunteering at just four years old, began by sending care packages to her cousin’s military unit overseas and then went on to focus on addressing hunger issues by collecting food donations. In 2014, she started collecting food from her school and later expanded to collecting donations from her after school care organization, dance classmates, family, friends, community organizations, six schools in Prince George County, and the Prince George County School Board office. She also volunteers her time in the food bank, helping to distribute food, clothing, and other items.

The Governor’s Volunteerism and Community Service Awards are presented by the Advisory Board on Service and Volunteerism and Virginia Department of Social Services’ Office on Volunteerism and Community Services on behalf of the Office of the Governor. These awards have recognized exceptional volunteer service in Virginia for more than 20 years.

Additional information about the program and additional information on this year’s recipients can be found here.


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